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Branch Highlights and Activities

The DPDB is composed of four branches - Operations and Administration, Policy and Disputes, Research, and Compliance. Major branch activities in 2012 are listed below.

Operations and Administration Branch

The Operations and Administration Branch is primarily responsible for managing the technological, financial, administrative, and contractual functions that support DPDB's mission. The branch is also responsible for formulating and maintaining DPDB's budget, and for other administrative functions. To support the needs of the Data Bank user base, the branch oversees operational aspects of the Data Bank, including a customer service center, system maintenance and enhancements, query fee processing, document management, and the publication of newsletters. Branch employees plan and manage system enhancements to make the Data Bank system more user-friendly, to improve data quality, and to ensure reliability. Additionally, the branch completed the selection process for the fifth generation Data Bank contract.

The Operations and Administration Branch provided oversight of the following:

  • Streamlined the entity registration process, allowing users to correctly choose their statutory authorities using a wizard-like tool.
  • Enabled online registration renewal, allowing entities to bypass the 2-week paper process and renew online instantly.
  • Eliminated mailing paper reports, thereby reducing paper consumption by 200,000 sheets annually and boosting data security.
  • Created an electronic process to automatically forward reports directly to licensing boards, to facilitate improved information sharing.
  • Improved overall system performance for reports, reducing response time from between 2 hours and 4 hours down to a few seconds.
  • Reduced the risk of downtime and improved overall system responsiveness, especially during periods of peak use.
  • Introduced enhancements to boost data integrity and compliance.
  • Enabled a new approach that helps users see connections between different reports, helping to tell the story of an incident or action.
  • Prepared the behind-the-scenes database changes needed to merge the HIPDB with the NPDB, expected during 2013.
  • Improved Data Bank Customer Service Center operations by leveraging new cloud-based customer relationship management software.

In addition, the Data Bank newsletter was converted from a traditional printed version to an electronic-only format. This effort is saving the Federal Government more than $50,000 in printing and postage costs and reducing paper consumption by 256,000 pages annually. The electronic newsletter is now delivered monthly, rather than quarterly, giving Data Bank users information in a more timely manner.

Policy and Disputes Branch

The Policy and Disputes Branch writes policy guidelines for the Data Bank; answers policy questions from health care entities, attorneys, government officials, and practitioners; educates users about Data Bank programs; makes presentations at health care conferences and meetings; ensures compliance with reporting and querying requirements; and creates fact sheets, articles, and other texts for the Data Bank's website and other locations. The branch also facilitates a Dispute Resolution process, which results from practitioners disputing reports in the Data Bank. If a reporting entity does not resolve a practitioner's concerns, the practitioner may ask for Dispute Resolution. A final determination is then made on whether a report should remain unchanged, be modified, or be voided.

Branch highlights for 2012 included the following:

  • DPDB staff coordinated and conducted 37 professional presentations or exhibits for Data Bank users and stakeholders across the country, including five webinars.
  • The DPDB hosted two educational forums in the United States - Nashville, September 26-27, and Denver, October 10-11. The purpose of these forums was to help attendees understand their Data Bank reporting and querying requirements and to inform them about the latest Data Bank initiatives. Forums included educational briefings on the following: overview of the Data Bank, Data Bank reporting and querying requirements, Data Bank system enhancements and security, and new and upcoming Data Bank features.
  • A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on February 15, 2012, announcing the merger of the HIPDB with the NPDB.
  • The System of Records Notice for the NPDB was updated to reflect changes in the Privacy Act exemptions for the NPDB. A final notice was published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2012.
  • Policy staff worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs, CMS, and the HHS OIG to ensure that Federal partners were prepared for changes that will go into effect after the merger of the NPDB and the HIPDB.
  • In 2012, a total of 103 reports were elevated to Dispute Resolution and 113 cases were closed. Both the elevations and closures were the highest in Data Bank history. Several reports closed in 2012 were elevated prior to 2012.
  • The Disputes staff continued to build and use an electronic Disputes Tracker system to rely less on paper files, including developing an electronic workflow, secure messaging, and a repository of cases.
  • Weekly disputes reports were eliminated due to automatically generated data tables from the Disputes Tracker.
  • Innovative training materials were developed by Dispute team members, including a video on how to put together dispute case materials and a PowerPoint tutorial on how to use the Disputes Tracker.
  • Practitioners who elevated their reports to Dispute Resolution now have a more user-friendly Report Response Service, developed in 2012, allowing them to see where they are in the process.
  • An article for the National Council of State Boards of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (NCSB) was written and published in the NCSB newsletter. It included information on the Data Bank and Section 1921, and tables showing the reporting of speech-language pathologists and audiologists. The NCSB called it "just what NCSB needs to get out to member boards and licensees."
  • Several Data Bank fact sheets for allied professions were created in 2012. Fact sheets have been developed for nurses, chiropractors, and pharmacists. Each fact sheet contains information on who can be reported to the Data Bank for what actions, as well as instructions on how to dispute a report. Completed fact sheets were posted on the Data Bank website.
  • The Policy team responded to inquiries elevated from the Data Bank Customer Service Center, correspondence from the White House, and policy-related emails and phone calls. Types of inquiries and correspondence included complaints against practitioners, attorney access, State and Federal subpoenas, State board issues, and policy clarifications.

Research Branch

The Research Branch is responsible for creating in-house research files and Public Use Files by selecting, merging, and recoding variables from the NPDB and the HIPDB. The Research Branch also creates and updates web-based statistics and produces the NPDB Annual Report.

Other functions of the Research Branch include providing aggregated data to internal and external stakeholders and performing quality control checks for data accuracy. The Research Branch also provides information to other DPDB branches to support their work.

Branch highlights for 2012 include the following:

  • A web-based Data Analysis Tool was developed and implemented to facilitate independent analysis of information relating to medical malpractice payments and adverse actions. The new tool allows a wide range of users to perform unique analyses that can be customized by State or region, making it possible for stakeholders to identify trends of interest and to target their resources on areas of concern. The Research Branch was recognized with an Outstanding Performance Award at the HRSA level for this effort.
  • The Research Branch also developed NPDB statistics by State that are available in table and trend plot formats that can be accessed using an interactive map of the United States.
  • The Research Branch used NPDB administrative data and information from an external data source to begin the process of validating existing NPDB system information. Combining the NPDB data with information from an outside data source is also providing answers to more research questions than would have been possible using NPDB data alone.
  • The Research Branch examined information residing in the Data Bank that is collected in non-mandatory fields by the reporting system.
  • The Research Branch procured a contract to administer a survey of eligible Data Bank users to obtain a comprehensive view of the usability and customer satisfaction with Data Bank products and services. Work on this contract began in the fall of 2012 and is expected to continue for 2 years.
  • The Public Use File was downloaded an average of three to four times per day.
  • Data Requests
    • The Research Branch responded to 70 data requests and inquiries from external users and more than 25 requests from other DPDB branches and other HHS staff.
    • The Research Branch completed 23 reports for 20 medical boards and boards of osteopathic medicine from 19 states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin). For this project, the Research staff verified the number of physicians with one or more clinical privilege action in the Data Bank but no licensure action in those states.
  • The Research Branch conducted a session that was open to all HRSA employees to introduce research that combined NPBD data with physician specialty information from an external data source.

Compliance Branch

The Compliance Branch acts to improve the completeness and accuracy of data reported to the HIPDB and the NPDB. The Compliance Branch works actively with State agencies on an Adverse Action Comparison Project and a Never Reported Professions Compliance Effort. The web-based technologies supporting these State agency compliance efforts were significantly improved, reducing the number of manual steps in various compliance processes. In addition, the results of these efforts can now be viewed on a U.S. map of compliance statistics by State.

Specific compliance efforts in 2012 included:

  • Never Reported Professions: Compliance staff continued to work with licensing boards that never reported disciplinary actions to the Data Bank. For this effort, staff identified specific professions and contacted the State licensing boards for those professions. Data Bank staff continued to work closely with these agencies to ensure they (1) understood the Data Bank reporting requirements, (2) registered with the Data Bank (if they were previously unregistered), (3) reported all reportable disciplinary actions they had taken, and (4) attested that they would continue to report in the future. At the end of 2012, 88 percent of the professions reviewed were compliant with reporting requirements. Table 1 details the compliant professions through the 2011 and 2012 public postings, as well as new reports to the Data Bank and the number of disclosures of these new reports from the Data Bank as a direct result of this effort.
  • Adverse Licensure Action Comparison Project: For this effort, Data Bank staff compared publicly available disciplinary action data against reports contained in the Data Bank to verify that the disciplinary actions were reported as required by law. When data were not publicly available, staff requested data from State licensing boards. Staff continued efforts to verify, by a one-to-one match, that all licensure actions taken by State licensing boards had been reported to the Data Bank when required by law. In 2012, staff continued working with the State licensing boards that regulate nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, podiatrists, psychologists, social workers, physicians, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists, and physical therapists, and it added behavioral health professions to the effort. By the end of 2012, 96 percent of all professions in the effort were compliant with Data Bank reporting requirements. Table 1 details the compliant professions by public posting and profession.
  • Compliance efforts resulted in 3,919 new reports added to the Data Bank that may not have been submitted otherwise. In addition, there were 6,331 disclosures of these new reports.
  • Communications: To assist States in their efforts to comply with Data Bank reporting requirements, staff conducted or participated in a variety of outreach education activities, including webinars, teleconferences, and presentations to State and national organizations. Staff provided a webinar for State licensing boards focusing on a new 2-year cycle of compliance activities for the 12 most-queried professions: physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, podiatrists, psychologists, social workers, chiropractors, optometrists, physical therapists, and the behavioral health professions. The first compliance status posting (approximately one-quarter of the boards in this review) for this new effort will be April 1, 2013. The webinar also demonstrated new web-based technology available to all State licensing boards when involved in a Data Bank compliance activity. Staff used the Data Bank Customer Service Center, email, telephone, and secure messaging to provide ongoing technical assistance to various stakeholder groups.
  • Technological Improvements: In November 2012, DPDB released a web-based technology solution for compliance, directly linked to the Data Bank database. This system introduced innovative applications, allowing staff and users to manage, organize, and communicate about missing licensure action data. The new system consolidates information into one location for users, and it improves the efficiency, accuracy, retention, and security of compliance-related data.
  • The Data Bank began a hospital compliance initiative in 2012 to better understand and improve querying activity and the completeness and accuracy of reports submitted to the Data Bank. This effort included:
    • Convening a variety of Data Bank stakeholder groups with the intent to obtain the viewpoints from individual attendees to better understand the role the Data Bank plays relative to individual users and health care organizations. The results of the group discussions concerning individual experiences will serve to inform the development of the Data Bank hospital compliance framework.
    • Beginning a comparative analysis to identify eligible hospitals and health care entities that may not be registered with the Data Bank and to determine reporting and querying activity trends.

Table 1: Adverse Licensure Action Comparison Project Compliance Status by Profession

Compliance Status Public Posting
Number of Compliant Professions

Profession July 1 2010 Oct 1 2010 April 1 2011 July 1 2011 Oct 1 2011 Dec 1 2011 July 1 2012 New Reports Disclosures
Nurse 7 22 46 49 50 50 51 476 185
Pharmacist 0 19 39 41 41 41 48 1,039 283
Physician Assistant 5 43 46 48 48 48 48 31 125
Podiatrist 3 38 43 45 45 45 45 14 84
Psychologist 1 33 44 46 47 48 50 78 107
Social Worker 0 29 45 46 46 48 50 226 134
Physician - - 68 87 95 99 102 776 3,397
Dentist - - 41 47 48 49 50 467 1,474
Chiropractor - - - - 50 51 51 288 270
Optometrist - - - - 50 51 51 41 91
Physical Therapist - - - - 82 83 85 83 22
Behavioral Health - - - - - - 286 400 159
Never Reported Professions 261 415 493 490 494 494 413 16,349 753
Adverse Licensure Total 3,919 6,331
Grand Total 20,258 7,084

Percent Compliant

Profession July 1 2010 Oct 1 2010 April 1 2011 July 1 2011 Oct 1 2011 Dec 1 2011 July 1 2012
Nurse 13% 43% 90% 96% 98% 98% 98%
Pharmacist 0 40 83 87 87 87 94
Physician Assistant 10 90 96 100 100 100 100
Podiatrist 7 83 93 98 98 98 98
Psychologist 2 65 86 90 92 94 98
Social Worker 0 59 92 94 94 98 98
Physician - - 67 86 94 98 100
Dentist - - 80 92 94 96 98
Chiropractor - - - - 98 100 100
Optometrist - - - - 98 100 100
Physical Therapist - - - - 82 83 85
Behavioral Health - - - - - - 89
Never Reported Professions 39 63 74 74 77 77 88

Note: Grand Total includes Never Reported.

Behavioral Health includes professions related to mental or behavioral health other than those listed separately; includes various types of counselors, therapists, and addiction professionals. For some professions, DPDB separated out groupings for the public posting.

New Reports are the number of new reports in the Data Bank as a result of the compliance effort.

Disclosures are the total number of times the New Reports were viewed by a registered Data Bank entity or seen as a result of a self-query. A search on a practitioner that does not result in a matched Data Bank report is not counted as a disclosure. One report may account for more than one disclosure - i.e., a report that is disclosed to five different queriers is counted as five disclosures.